Anna Tunnicliffe: Returning to China

Published on May 5th, 2014

The third event on the 2014 Extreme Sailing Series circuit (May 1-4) was in Qingdao, China, home of the sailing events for the 2008 Olympic Games. This is where American Anna Tunnicliffe won her Gold Medal in the Laser Radial.

Returning to Qingdao for the first time since her podium performance, Anna joined fellow American Morgan Larson on the Alinghi team, and this skipper-tactician duo beat out the other 11 Extreme 40 catamaran teams for the win.

But how they won was not for the faint of heart. Anna explains…

The forecast for Saturday (fourth and final day) was similar to that of the second day of the regatta; big breeze blowing from the city meaning that it would be very puffy and shifty. The direction was right, but the intensity of the puffs was not quite the same. It did still leave, however, room for big holes where nothing happened and big puffs where everything happened.

Just as the other day, the trick was to get off the start line heading towards the first big shift, keep it simple, tack on to the lift and sail towards the mark. All of our races we did this quite well. Even the race in which we finished 4th place, we were leading until the last windward mark; there we sat in a hole right at the mark as the rest of the fleet sailed around us.

It was all very exciting but what should have been our second to last race ended up being the talk of the day. Before the race had even started, it ended, with a massive crash! I mean huge!

We were on the start line sailing down to the pin end with 10 or so seconds to go. There was a pack of port tackers waiting for us to cross so they could duck us and start the race. As we approached them and they approached us, a big puff dropped on to the course. We were flying a hull and, as it happens sometimes in these boats, Red Bull just couldn’t bear away in time and hit us.

Their windward hull went right into the port side of our boat. There was huge hole in our boat, hydraulics ripped out, and for them, a broken pole and a bit of a chunk out of their bow. The boats stayed locked for a little while as they spun around each other, but eventually broke free. Fortunately, no one was hurt in the incident. We got the coach boat alongside very quickly to support the hull that was quickly filling with water. We got the sails down and raced to the dock to get to the crane and haul out.

Because we ended up missing two races not through our own fault, we were awarded redress, getting average points based on the races from Friday and Saturday. At the end of the day, we still stayed on top of the leaderboard and we were very happy with this week’s sailing.

We are deciding exactly what to do with the hull and how to best get it ready for the next event in Russia in June. But the team is great and will have it looking like new very soon.

Being back in Qingdao has been a great experience. We were staying at the same hotel, the Intercontinental, as we did during the Olympics. The surrounding area has grown with cafes and restaurants popping up. All weekend the whole marina was very crowded. On one of the days, I went to the Starbucks in the marina for a tea and walked by where my Laser sat for the two weeks of sailing back in 2008.

Ever since I first sailed here, I have loved the venue; I feel relaxed and have fun on the water. This time was no exception. It is a challenging place to sail but always rewarding, and winning here again was awesome!

ESS05

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